ATLANTA — Mark Richt’s top recruiter is staying at Georgia. Now the coach is awaiting decisions from his star quarterback and tailback.
Rodney Garner, Georgia’s recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, said Monday he turned down an offer to coach at Tennessee.
Garner, named assistant head coach in 2005, interviewed for a position as an offensive assistant on new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin’s staff.
Garner said Monday he was "flattered" and "sincerely appreciative" of the interest from Tennessee but said he based his decision on "the positives at Georgia."
"My heart is coaching on the defensive side of the ball," Garner said. "I enjoy working with coach Richt and the rest of the staff and our family loves being a part of the Athens community. And we have some really good defensive linemen returning next year along with some outstanding newcomers."
Richt said he is still awaiting decisions from junior quarterback Matthew Stafford and sophomore tailback Knowshon Moreno, who are considering leaving school to enter the 2009 draft.
"I don’t want to put undue pressure on these young men," Richt said in a telephone interview. "I do want what’s best for these young men. They’ve got to figure that out for themselves, but if they do stay I want their whole heart.
"I don’t want a guy who’s only halfhearted. I would say this: If Matthew or Knowshon were to stay, it would absolutely be because their heart said to stay at Georgia. I’m not worried about those guys. If they stay it’s because they love the place and they want to help us win a championship."
Garner has been a Georgia assistant since 1998. He was retained when Richt was hired as head coach in 2000.
Garner’s 2008 salary of more than $250,000 was the third-highest among Richt’s assistants.
Richt said all his assistants will receive raises after a 10-3 season. He wouldn’t say if Garner received a bigger raise to remain at Georgia.
"We’re not going to get into that right now," Richt said in a telephone interview on Monday. "Rodney is the one that made the decision. I didn’t have to talk him into anything. We did have some good conversations. He believes in what we’re doing here at Georgia. He and his family enjoy being here in Athens very much."
According to an ESPN.com report, Tennessee offered Garner a package that could have approached $400,000.
"It was certainly a very flattering situation for him, no doubt," Richt said.
"When he told me he was staying, I told him I was humbled by his decision and it just motivates me to be a better head coach and a better leader and help us all to reach our potential. ... I think it’s great for Georgia when guys get that kind of opportunity and still feel like this is the place for me."
Garner also interviewed to be Auburn’s head coach last month. He had other interviews with LSU in 2005 and with the NFL New Orleans Saints in 2006.
Richt also retained offensive line coach Stacy Searels last month after Searels interviewed at Auburn.
"It’s very big. It’s important," Richt said. "All our coaches are a blessing to our program. They’re all outstanding men. They’re exactly the kind of coaches and men we want in this program. To be able to keep Rodney and Stacy on staff is very big. It’s great to have everybody on staff ... All these coaches are worth fighting for."